Everything You Need to Know About Cooking With Bean Liquid

Stop pouring that valuable aquafaba down the drain.


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Grocery prices keep going up, which means pantry ingredients may feel more valuable than ever. You may have noticed the plethora of trending recipes using every bit of an ingredient—carrot greens, beet stems, and even bean liquid. Dumping an entire can of beans into a recipe may feel foreign to those used to draining and rinsing their beans, but why waste such a flavorful element when cooking during historic inflation?

Better question: Is using this liquid even a good idea, or is it better off sent down the drain? Because you can’t trust every cooking technique you see on social media, a bean liquid culinary expert helped fill us in. Here’s what you need to know about cooking with bean liquid:

What Does Bean Liquid Do?  

Bean liquid has many cooking uses, including use as an instant stock or broth for soups and other dishes, as it enhances the flavor of what’s being cooked by adding a deep savory, almost umami, quality,” says Joe Castelforte, Cento’s Corporate Chef. ”It can also be used as a thickener for sauces and soups.”

What Does Bean Liquid Taste Like? 

Officially called aquafaba, the liquid included in cans of beans is typically starchy and salty, though those qualities differ based on the brand of beans. Feel free to dip a spoon or finger in to taste it before using. “It has a viscous body from the fibers of the beans. In general, aquafaba tastes a bit like a savory bean milkshake,” Castelforte says. “One advantage of using canned beans is you get a greater concentration of starch in the liquid than simply [by] boiling them in water.” 

When To Use Bean Liquid—And When Not To

So how do you know when to use it? “Sometimes you just need the beans as an ingredient, other times you need the liquid to get a better yield for a soup, or to add more flavor to the dish,” Castelforte notes. If your dish is soupy, saucy or stewy, toss in the liquid. If you’re going for more of a sauté, roast, or crisp quality, drain it. You may also want to pick low sodium canned beans to not over salt a dish.

Most bean liquids are fine to use, and Castelforte is a fan of the bean liquid of chickpeas, cannellini, and black beans. Kidney beans can have a strong flavor that dominates a dish (add slowly), and lentil liquid can be watery, and not offer the same amount of starch as typical aquafaba. 

Even if you’re draining off your bean liquid, you don’t have to toss it. Aquafaba makes an excellent plant-based egg white substitute. Use it to whip up stiff peaks for meringues, mousses, and cakes, Castelforte recommends. He’s partial to chickpea liquid, which has a more mild flavor. The bean liquid can also be frozen (in an ice tray to easily pop out) and used as an egg white substitute in most recipes. 

So, have we just been dumping good ingredients all this time? As it turns out, cooking with bean liquid is nothing new. “Older generations did use the bean liquid, and then interest waned, and now it’s back, possibly due to concerns about the economy,” Castelforte shares. “But the truth is, there’s never been a better time to use bean liquid because its quality has increased considerably over the decades. There’s now better equipment used to consistently extract high-quality bean liquid.”

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